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How to Deal with Sexual Harassment in the Workplace

Holly Hicks,

How to Deal with Sexual Harassment in the Workplace

If you are being sexually harassed, you may at first be in denial. You may think, “This can’t be happening to me,” or “Why is this happening to me!” However, sexual harassment is more common than most people realize: in a survey administered by AWARE (Association of Women for Action and Research), a total of 54% said they have experienced some form of sexual harassment in the workplace.

The most common victims are women and feminine gay men in supervisory positions (in AWARE study, this was 79%), although men do report being sexually harassed too – it isn’t just women. No matter the gender of the victim, sexual harassment is always a horrible thing to deal with, and the problem becomes even more stressful when it occurs at your place of employment.

What is Sexual Harassment?

Sexual harassment in the workplace articles demonstrates how it can take many forms, from punishable crimes like in severe cases: assault, rape, or molestation. Less severe but traumatizing cases of sexual harassment can include threatening emails or text messages, unwanted physical touching or attention, offensive remarks about their body, and other unwanted behavior. These forms of sexual harassment can be harder to punish and record evidence, which is why laws have been put into place to make employers liable for their employees. It is important to find out the policies at your place of work about this form of harassment and to know who to talk to if you are being sexually harassed in any way.

Laws against Sexual Harassment

There has been great progress in protecting men and women who are harassed. Sexual harassment is part of gender discrimination and is protected by the Civil Rights Act of 1964. But employers were not responsible for the harassment of their workers until 1998 when the U.S. Supreme Court ruled two important decisions for increasing employer liability. Since this ruling, employers are responsible for educating their workers about the effects and punishment for sexual harassment and most places of work have a section in their employee handbook dedicated to the definition and punishment of such acts of harassment.

Where to Turn?

It can be scary being the victim of lewd comments, creepy behavior, and unwanted physical attention. Victims of sexual harassment can end up missing work due to fear or the desire to avoid such harassment. Sometimes their employment is threatened if they tell anyone or they are prevented from being promoted if they do not comply with lewd actions. They will act more stressed out and most become depressed because they don’t know who they should talk to if people will even believe them. The important thing to realize is that you are not alone, and there is a way out of this mess.

  • Begin writing down dates and specify what kind of harassment is taking place in a journal, keep all text messages, emails or voice mail messages as evidence,
  • Let someone you trust know about the harassment. If other people are around when it happens, talk to them about it – they may be witnesses in your case later on.
  • Talk to someone in your HR department or someone above you – give them your witness or evidence, they are legally required to act.
  • If you are a victim of assault, molestation, forced sexual acts, or rape, immediately call the police. If you are raped, go to the hospital and get a rape kit.
  • There are hotlines you can call for help or advice: call the AWARE hotline 1-800-774-5935, the Sexual Assault Resource Agency at 434-977-7372, or RAINN (Rape Abuse and Incest National Network) at 1-800-656-HOPE
  • Seek a counselor if you are feeling depressed, overwhelmed or suicidal due to harassment. Not only will this help you immensely, but seeking outside help for the effects of harassment can be more evidence in your case.
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